Hearing reveals details of pitbull seizure

Owner describes pets as ‘very kind’
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
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Four pitbulls that allegedly attacked a teen in Downtown Auburn will remain in custody for the immediate future. The owner of the dogs was revealed at an administrative hearing held Wednesday to determine whether Auburn Police officers and Placer County Animal Control properly seized his pets. Daniel Coverston, 27, of Auburn, appeared with his attorney Dean Starks at the hearing held in a conference room at the Placer County Sheriff’s Office in Auburn. Over the course of a little more than an hour, Auburn Police Department Capt. John Ruffcorn read from several reports officers submitted regarding the incident. On Sept. 16 the pitbulls reportedly approached 17-year-old Weimar resident Joseph “JoJo” Kerschner while he was walking to a Downtown Auburn restaurant. Kerschner had just parked his car in a parking lot on 894 Lincoln Way in Downtown. According to reports that Ruffcorn read aloud, Kerschner told police that one of the dogs, a larger, white dog, first growled at Kerschner then the other dogs followed. When the white dog attacked, so did the others. Two witnesses –Wade Andrews and April O’Dell – rescued Kerschner but not before the teen received more than 20 puncture wounds and bites to his body, including a bite to his ankle that exposed bone. He now has more than 30 stitches in his body and has one of his arms and legs are bandaged. While reading the reports, Ruffcorn said that Coverston was in Michigan when the attack occurred. After hearing the news, Coverston immediately booked a return flight home, Ruffcorn said. Ruffcorn said police left the dogs in the care of the property owner, Patricia Coverston, Daniel’s mother, because they felt confident that the pitbulls would be secure inside the home – not in the yard. Ruffcorn said he contacted Placer County Animal shelter the evening of the attack and was told by Tim Goffa, senior supervising animal control officer, that it would be OK to leave the animals at the home overnight. Ruffcorn repeated Goffa’s instructions over the phone to Patricia Coverston regarding how to securely quarantine the dogs. Ruffcorn said in the hearing that the next afternoon, during a roundtable discussion with officers and animal control, the decision was made to seize the animals. Ruffcorn said the dogs were taken by animal control “without incident.” However, he noted that Daniel Coverston did not appear to have control of the animals. He said as one dog was escorted out of the house at a time, another dog broke loose and was running around the outside of the property. Another dog became agitated in the car and his head broke through a window screen. “The dogs were not aggressive but it was clear that Daniel did not have control of the dogs,” Ruffcorn said during the hearing. At the end of the hearing, Starks said he and his client were not going to contest that the animals remain quarantined at the animal shelter. Starks said afterward that taking the animals “was the right thing to do.” Starks said the animals should remain in custody while the investigation continues. A court hearing to decide the fate of the dogs will be set at a later date. The hearing officer of Wednesday’s hearing said she would take the information presented to her that afternoon under submission and issue a decision by the end of the week. Ruffcorn said during the hearing that no charges have yet been filed against the owner. He said police are waiting until they complete their investigation. Jenifer Gee can be reached at ---------- On Wednesday, at an administrative hearing was held regarding whether four pitbulls that attacked a teen in Downtown Auburn were properly seized. A the conclusion of the hearing, the owner’s defense attorney, Dean Starks, said he and his client, Daniel Coverston, were not objecting to the seizure. Below are some of the key points that arose from the hearing as Auburn Police Capt. John Ruffcorn read aloud several police reports about the attack. - Owner Daniel Coverston, 27, reportedly told police he administers “aggression shots” to his dogs on a regular basis. He said that when the dogs are together they have a pack mentality. - The dogs reportedly had expired licenses with the city of Auburn. Coverston reportedly renewed those licenses two days after they were seized. - There is a history of five calls to dispatch regarding the pitbulls on Coverston’s property. During one of the five calls, Coverston was cited for not having current rabies shots for at least one of his pets. The dogs had current rabies vaccinations as of the date of the attack. - Coverston reportedly told police that there were problems with the backyard gate and that it would not close all the way sometimes. Coverston said he has since built a bigger redwood fence in his backyard, which is adjacent to the parking lot where the teen was attacked. - Auburn Police Capt. John Ruffcorn said that a second witness, Raymond Alexander, reported that he was also approached by four aggressive dogs at about the same time and scared them off by setting his car alarm. The witnesses reportedly tried calling 911 but had a difficult time reaching Auburn dispatch. ----------